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Seminar teaches effective lobbying

Karl Horeis, Appeal staff writer

The roll playing between legislators and mock-lobbyists was one of the most popular and effective features of the Lobbying for Results workshop again this year, according to Abby Johnson with the League of Women Voters, who sponsored the event along with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

“It’s good to act out the interaction instead of just hearing about it,” she said.

The seminar, held Saturday in a conference room at the Nevada State Library and Archives, was aimed at helping residents understand how to effectively lobby legislators. Participants were also given instruction on how a bill becomes law, how to use tools like the Internet to watch bills and how to write testimony.

A wide variety of people paid the $30 entry fee, which covered lunch and a packet of materials. There was a woman interested in highway reflectors, people concerned about budget cuts, folks who wanted to support the governor’s tax proposal, people concerned about disability-related issues and almost 30 students of social work from University of Nevada, Reno, according to Johnson.

“There’s quite a spectrum, and that’s exactly what we wanted,” she said.

A big part of enabling residents to access their legislature, she says, is demystifying it and letting people know legislators are real people.

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, and former assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell were on hand to put a face on the body politic. They were part of a panel of speakers including independent lobbyist Susan Fisher, who will be lobbying for Barrick Gold and the City of Reno this session, Jan Gilbert from PLAN, Rosemary McCarthy of the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR and Mary Bennington, a past president of the Douglas County School Board.

Amodei and Parnell gave tips on effective lobbying. According to Johnson, Amodei said to be concise and accurate.

“He was quite concise himself,” she said.

She said Parnell emphasized the importance of mutual respect between legislators and the public. Both are essential parts of a healthy democracy so there has to be a lot of give and take between them.

Parnell also addressed the issue of citizens feeling helpless against the function of government.

“Involving the public in lawmaking is an anecdote to cynicism,” she said. “Making the process work and being involved is extremely necessary. There’s no choice. We have to do it.”

Jennifer Benedict, 22, said she learned a lot during the workshop.

A senior in UNR’s Social Work Department, Benedict said getting a foundation in the bill process would be important in her internship with the State of Nevada Employee’s Association.

“How to approach a legislator is a whole different world as far as what to say and what not to say,” said Benedict, who attended with instructor Joe Edson’s Social Work and Legislative Advocacy class. “For the average person to go in there it can be very intimidating.”

After hearing Amodei and Parnell speak, however, Benedict was relieved.

“I was glad to learn that the legislators are people too,” she said.

“They’re really very approachable,” said her teacher, Edson. “They are quite willing to talk, and I think that goes a long way toward eliminating the fear and intimidation of the legislative process.”

That should be helpful for the graduate students in his class, who will be required to introduce themselves in a committee hearing room and give testimony to the legislators after the session gets under way on Feb. 3.

ON THE NET

http://www.leg.state.nv.us